downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — lakemerritt

A Flurry of Placemaking

March 18, 2011

As we discuss the boundaries of downtown’s districts, several recent developments attempt to answer questions about downtown’s identity, for better or for worse.

The City Council unanimously approved a Broadway Transit Investment Study, which will study different approaches to creating a new transit service connecting Jack London Square to the MacArthur BART station. This study of future service, which could be anything from an enhanced version of the Broadway Shuttle to a rail system, will have to grapple with the doomed “Upper Broadway” moniker as it looks at anchoring a new district above Uptown but below North Oakland.

The Downtown Association, a Business Improvement District consisting primarily of commercial property owners, has installed banners around downtown in a placemaking exercise. Each banner says Downtown on one side and names a particular downtown district on the other, with color-codes that match the Broadway Shuttle stop signs. Unfortunately, the Downtown Association has not defined the districts to the level our discussion last week was aiming for: some of the signs are clearly erroneous, such as this banner reading “Lake Merritt” near the intersection of Broadway and 19th.

Lake Merritt banner on Broadway

Oaksterdam University, by anchoring downtown Oakland’s growing marijuana industry, has arguably created a new district downtown, although others would say that Oaksterdam is less of a place than a state of mind. The mural painted on their large, exposed side wall is meant to identify downtown as a distinctive place, and looks to be accomplishing that goal beautifully. Look for it to be finished in about two weeks.

Next week: a new map of downtown?

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Where is the DTO 3?

March 11, 2011

On Tuesday, the City Council Community and Economic Development Committee approved a request to apply for a grant to study a downtown transit investment – something that some are calling a “streetcar” study, although it will study all modes of transit. During the discussion, Councilmember Jane Brunner (North Oakland) pointed out that calling the stretch of Broadway above downtown but below 580 “Upper Broadway” was very confusing to people in North Oakland. And while they were on the subject, Councilmember Pat Kernighan (Chinatown – Eastlake – Crocker Highlands) posed a similar question:

She asked, where is Uptown? What is the relationship between Uptown and Downtown? Is there a Mid-Town? These questions are worth exploring.

Downtown Oakland – or as we like to call it around here, the DTO – is becoming a destination because of its cultural attractions, including nightlife, and the US Census reports that downtown is one of the (few) fast-growing parts of the city. With the downtown core becoming a bigger part of Oakland, it is time to dust off the old maps and see if we can update the geography of the heart of Oakland.

Below is a map from 2008, part of a discussion on mapping downtown’s identity. An updated map is a good project, so how can we change it? What do you, as a downtown resident, worker, or enjoyer, think about this map? Is it basically right or way off? What has changed since 2008? And what are the answers to CM Kernighan’s questions – where is Uptown? Is there a Mid-Town? Next week I will upload a map based on our discussion and we’ll see how cultural change can be expressed as geography.

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